NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The head of the Department of Veterans Affairs health care network that covers Washington, D.C., will take over the leadership of the VA's New Orleans system, including the $1 billion hospital now under construction.

Federal official tell The New Orleans Advocate Fernando Rivera will start as director and chief executive officer of the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System on Jan. 11.

The system is responsible for providing care to 66,500 veterans in the region and operates clinics in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Slidell, Hammond, Bogalusa, Franklin, Houma and St. John Parish.

It is affiliated with the Tulane and LSU medical schools.

Rivera has been with the Department of Veterans Affairs for 30 years and previously was in charge of the VA Capitol Health Care Network.